The size of a settlement agreement after a case of police brutality can vary greatly based on each individual situation, but there are a few important guiding factors to keep in mind after an incident. All cases for excessive use of force misconduct are brought under the same set of federal laws that protect citizens from improper government action. Settlements are used as a way to avoid the legal fees associated with a trial and the possibility of a jury returning a verdict in the range of thousands or millions of dollars. A lawyer who has seen many police brutality cases can give advice about the possibility of a settlement and the amount that will be paid by considering the following:
- Whether the police were justified in using any kind of force
- The amount of force necessary to secure the situation
- The danger created by the suspect
- The amount of available evidence of police misconduct
- The level of publicity the incident received in local or national media
- How far officers deviated from normal law enforcement duties
- The severity of the resulting injuries, known legally as damages
Fleeing suspect beaten by several police officers while news helicopter watches
One incident that can be used as guidance resulted in a man being paid a $650,000 settlement by San Bernardino County after his police beating was caught on video.
The underlying events that caused the beating started with a man who had a prior criminal record leading the police on a 3 hour long chase. Deputies attempted to serve a search warrant at an Apple Valley home when the suspect, named Francis Pusok, began to flee. Over the next few hours, Pusok attempted to run, drive away, and even ride a horse to avoid the police. He eventually fell off of the stolen horse and was shot by a police taser to be taken into custody. A helicopter from a local news station had been following the pursuit and filming.
As Pusok is being taken into custody, multiple officers can be seen punching and kicking him after he was already detained with his hands behind his back. The San Bernardino Sheriff ended up placing ten officers on administrative leave and conducting their own investigation as a result of their actions.
The county initiated settlement negotiations shortly after the incident out of concern that going to trial would cost more than the $650,000 agreement based on the associated legal fees and possibility of a much larger jury verdict. Due to the severity of the beating and strength of the video evidence, the county believed this to be a cost saving measure for taxpayers.
Why was this settlement so large?
The victim in this case had a number of facts working in his favor. First a news helicopter captured the entire incident live as it happened, meaning there would be plenty of people who saw and knew about the beating. In these situations, police departments often want to minimize the negative publicity and damage to their reputations. Secondly, the man was already detained and beaten by a number of police officers. Once a suspect is already detained and there is no threat of violence, police are never justified in using force, yet they essentially handed down a gang beating on the man. Because of the high quality, conclusive evidence that was publicized and the outrageous nature of the beating, this victim was in an excellent situation from a legal standpoint. The county would essentially have no defense at trial for a clear case of misconduct by numerous officers. A judge or jury could easily make this an open and shut case of police brutality and grant a judgment to the victim.
Get expert legal help now
If you think you may be entitled to a settlement or other forms of compensation after an incident of police violence, it is important to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. There are licensed attorneys in San Bernardino and other surrounding parts of California who specialize in police brutality cases.